They may not believe it, but as Hume has
noticed, they are playing along with the White House game plan. Friday's
revelation about how Betty Currie took control of the gifts given to
Monica Lewinsky by President Clinton raised a real possibility of
obstruction of justice, but over the weekend instead of exploring that
issue the networks examined Ken Starr. (The February 7 CyberAlert detailed
how the White House distraction strategy worked Friday night.)
Some brief quotes to give you a flavor
network coverage, followed by fresh attacks on Starr from Al Hunt and
Anchor Brian Williams: "The war of
words over leaks in the White House crisis. Independent Counsel Kenneth
Starr's office stands accused."
John Palmer's subsequent story focused on
the latest criticism from William Ginsburg of Starr's office.
-- ABC's World News Tonight on Saturday
also honed in on Starr and Ginsburg, as Michel McQueen relayed the opinion
of a convicted felon as valid criticism of Starr. She concluded her story:
"Ginsburg told ABC News he is not
coordinating with ABC's lawyers, but he is not the only one to complain
that Starr's tactics border on abuse. Whitewater figure Susan McDougal
has long maintained that she's in jail on contempt charges only because
she won't invent facts to fit Starr's story. The question now is
whether Starr's tactics will prove more offensive to the courts and the
public than any alleged wrongdoing by the President that Starr is
-- Sunday night, of the broadcast network
evening shows, only ABC's World News Tonight led with Newsweek's story
that another White House staffer has heard messages Clinton left for
The February 8 CBS Evening News didn't
even mention the Newsweek discovery, but the network had time for a full
story on a more pressing concern. Anchor John Roberts intoned:
"It was Hillary Rodham Clinton who
first charged a right-wing conspiracy is out to get her husband. When
asked who the main conspirator is, the President's supporters keep
coming up with one name in particular. Rita Braver tells us about the
mystery man on the right."
The mystery man: Richard Scaife.
Just as on Saturday, Sunday NBC's Nightly
News highlighted attacks on Starr. Here's the top of the show tease:
Anchor Len Cannon: "The President's
popularity continues to climb while new leaks raise more questions about
this crisis and about the special counsel who is running the
Paul Begala on Meet the Press: "Ken
Starr has become corrupt in the sense Lord Acton meant when he said
absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Reporter John Palmer looked at the
controversy over leaks from Starr and how Sunday brought more calls from
Democrats for an investigation of him. Deep into the story Palmer did take
a few seconds to relay the basics of the breaking Newsweek report, but
before that he cited some NBC News poll numbers. First, that even if the
allegations are true most don't think the President should resign.
Second, asked about Starr's investigation, 64 percent said it's
"partisan and political" while only 22 percent characterized it
as "fair and impartial."
Hard to where they got that idea.
-- Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt on
CNN's Capital Gang on Saturday night: "For Ken Starr to say he's
going to investigate the leaks is as believable as OJ Simpson looking for
the real killer."
-- Newsweek's Eleanor Clift on the
McLaughlin Group: "What Starr is doing is trying to construct the
truth according to Ken Starr and according to Miss Lewinsky's lawyer
he's reneging on his offer of immunity because she's not saying what
he wants and what he's doing is trying to get people to say what he
wants. He's the one who is suborning perjury here in my view. He has
gone way beyond the pale in term of his treatment of witnesses."
Last year when the Washington Post revealed
his questioning of Arkansans about with whom Clinton had relationships, in
an effort to learn with whom he may have confided information, much of the
media were quick to condemn the technique. Matt Lauer opened a June 26
Today interview of Jones adviser Susan Carpenter-McMillan with this
question right out of the White House playbook:
Last week MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski
reminded me of a paragraph from a back issue of the MRC's MediaWatch
newsletter which demonstrates the media's hypocrisy. The front page
article in the January 1993 issue reviewed negative coverage of Bush's
pardon of Casper Weinberger. The last paragraph:
"Evans and Novak reported that former
Pentagon spokesman Henry Catto said James Brosnahan, the attorney
prosecuting Weinberger for Walsh, asked him whether Weinberger had an
extramarital affair. Catto believed Walsh wished to 'denigrate
Weinberger's character' before a jury, but the networks ignored this
story of improper conduct."
At least half of the 33 quotes have not
appeared yet in a CyberAlert, including most of the historical quotes from
1992 and 1994. The issue takes you through ten media phases, from
promoting Clinton in 1992 to promoting the idea of a right-wing conspiracy
in 1998, with phases in between for disparaging Paula Jones, portraying
the Clintons as icons of family values and regretting how much coverage
they allocated to the Lewinsky affair. MRC analysts Gene Eliasen and Steve
Kaminski caught the new Time and Newsweek quotes cited in phases nine and
ten and MRC research associate Kristina Sewell hunted through back issue
to find the old quotes.
I realize this is quite lengthy, but it
only makes sense to send the whole issue at once. -- Brent Baker
February 9, 1998 (Vol. Eleven; No.
Media Phase One:
Campaign for Clinton
"The group of people I'll call The
Press - by which I mean several dozen political journalists of my
acquaintance, many of whom the Buchanan administration may someday
round up on suspicion of having Democratic or even liberal sympathies -
was of one mind as the season's first primary campaign shuddered toward
its finish. I asked each of them, one after another, this question: If you
were a New Hampshire Democrat, whom would you vote for? The answer was
always the same; and the answer was always Clinton. In this group, in my
experience, such unanimity is unprecedented....
"Almost none is due to calculations
about Clinton being 'electable'...and none at all is due to belief in
Clinton's denials in the Flowers business, because no one believes these
denials. No, the real reason members of The Press like Clinton is simple,
and surprisingly uncynical: they think he would make a very good, perhaps
a great, President. Several told me they were convinced that Clinton is
the most talented presidential candidate they have ever encountered, JFK
included." - New Republic Senior Editor Hendrik Hertzberg, March 9,
"I must say I was struck by the
expanse of their chests. They may have to put out their stats." -
Newsweek's Eleanor Clift on Clinton and Gore, CNN's Inside Politics,
July 10, 1992.
"They got more positive coverage on
this bus tour than the Beatles got on their first tour of America. More
reporters were oohing and aahing. It was almost embarrassing. I'm sorry
I didn't get a chance to do it until now." - Newsweek reporter
Eleanor Clift on The McLaughlin Group, July 25, 1992 .
Media Phase Two:
Ignore Paula Jones
"Afterward...reporters conferred with
each other to try to figure out whether what they'd just seen was 'a
story' and...whether anybody was going to report it. The consensus was
that if CNN carried it the networks would carry it, which meant The New
York Times might carry it, in which case it would be a big
story....Clinton is also the best President we've had in a long time.
That is the unspoken reason the sex charges haven't received as much
play as you might expect. Reporters are patriots, too; it's their dirty
little secret...Few journalists want to see the President crippled now
that he is making some progress in cracking large, intractable domestic
problems." - Mickey Kaus describing media reaction to Paula Jones
announcing her suit against President Clinton, March 7, 1994 New Republic.
"Why didn't we put it on earlier? It
didn't seem, I think to most people, entirely relevant to what was going
on at the time. These are the kinds of charges raised about the President
before. They had been played out in the Gennifer Flowers episode. The
American public had made a kind of decision about his personal conduct and
whether it had relevance in his personal life. And it seemed at that time
it didn't have the news weight." - Tom Brokaw on the CNBC show
Tim Russert on May 9, 1994, after Jones filed her suit.
"Are we in an era of government by
Geraldo? Have we created an atmosphere where no one with any interesting
aspects of their past is going to want to get involved in politics? Are we
going to look back on this time 100 years from now the way we look back on
Salem?...We're going to wind up with government by goody-goodies,
government by people who have done nothing in their life except walk the
straight and narrow, who have no creative thoughts. We're going to look
back on this 100 years from now and say we drove some of our best people
out of politics. In the 20th century, having an interesting sexual history
is a leading indicator of success in the presidency." - Newsweek
Senior Editor Joe Klein on Face the Nation, May 8, 1994.
Media Phase Three:
Disparage Paula Jones
"Yes, the case is being fomented by
right-wing nuts, and yes, she is not a very credible witness, and it's
really not a law case at all...some sleazy woman with big hair coming out
of the trailer parks...I think she's a dubious witness, I really
do." - Newsweek Washington Bureau Chief Evan Thomas on Inside
Washington, May 7, 1994.
"I think at least the American people
are more likely to believe the President than they are to believe, you
know, someone without a job, from Arkansas, whose lawyer says she's not
in it for money, but clearly she's in it for something - fame,
celebrity, money, something. And she's aligned with right-wing groups,
which also draws it into question...[Anita Hill] brought her charges to
the Senate Judiciary Committee after being asked to, and very quietly.
There wasn't, she wasn't going before a left-wing group in a press
conference." - Time columnist Margaret Carlson on CNN's Capital
Gang, May 7, 1994
"Sam, 'not trying to hurt the
President'? Did she say that with a straight face?"
"Why does anyone care what this woman
has to say?"
"Bottom line, Sam. Is she not trying
to capitalize on this, in effect to profit from impugning the
President?" - Questions from Good Morning America co-host Charles
Gibson to Sam Donaldson about his Paula Jones interview to air on Prime
Time Live, June 16, 1994.
"But [attorney Bob] Bennett says he
has 'people coming out of the woodwork' to discredit Jones and her
story. He need look no further than Jones' brother-in-law, Mark
Brown...'She went with one man and when she got there, she spotted
another one. She goes right up to him, puts her leg between the legs of
the other man and rubs herself up and down on him...Promiscuity? Good
gosh. Her mother is fixing to get the shock of her life when Paula's
life comes out...She went out and had herself a good time. I've seen her
at the Red Lobster pinch men on the ass.'" - Newsweek Washington
reporter Mark Hosenball, May 16, 1994.
"We've got an awful lot to talk
about this week, including the sexual harassment suit against the
President. Of course, in that one, it's a little tough to figure out
who's really being harassed." - Today co-host Bryant Gumbel, May
Media Phase Four:
Portray the Clintons as the Cleavers
"While George Bush - all whiteness
- talks about 'family values,' the Clintons demonstrate them by
confessing to adultery." - Former Washington Post reporter and
current Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal in The New Republic, February 17,
"She's ecumenical but prefers
Italian and Mexican. The President fixes her eggs with jalape'o peppers
on the weekends. One Christmas she served black beans and chili as part of
a buffet. She carries Tabasco sauce wherever she goes....Valentine's Day
at the Red Sage restaurant. Even at a romantic outing, the President can
be the date from hell, talking to everyone but the girl he brung....Finally
alone, they have 'painted soup' and the lamb baked in herbed bread.
They exchange gifts and touch each other more in two hours than the Bushes
did in four years." - Time's Margaret Carlson writing a June,
1993 Vanity Fair profile of Hillary Clinton.
"At the very moment that her father is
in the headlines for this sexual harassment suit by Paula Jones, and I
think there's always an edge of surprise in our voices that Chelsea has
turned out so well. And it's not just because she's in the White
House, but because, well, look at all the criticism of her father and the
character question. But I think this is another example that it's not
the measure of a man, it's not the total measure of a man whether he's
you know, quote 'caused pain in his marriage.' The children we give to
the world are a better measure of that, and I think she's a great
example that there's a side and there's a goodness to Clinton as a
father that we don't accept when we see her." - Time columnist
Margaret Carlson in a June 5, 1997 Good Morning America segment on
daughter Chelsea graduating from high school.
"In her Wednesday Commentary page
column, Linda Bowles stated that President Clinton and his former campaign
adviser Dick Morris both were 'guilty of callous unfaithfulness to their
wives and children.' Neither man has admitted to being or been proven to
have been unfaithful. The Tribune regrets the error." - Chicago
Tribune correction, September 5, 1996.
Media Phase Five:
Denounce Troopergate Coverage
"The American Spectator broke the
story...because they're a very right-wing ideological
publication....What really happened was there was a conspiracy, in my
opinion, by right-wingers, including some right-wing journalists, to press
this newspaper [the Los Angeles Times] into running this story before it
was ready to, trying to get it out, and so they spread the rumor all
around town that I had threatened to resign if it did run...I know one of
the guys who was spreading it: Brit Hume of ABC, who covers the White
House, who writes for The American Spectator. I know there's another
conservative journalist who covers the White House, Fred Barnes, who's
on the editorial board of The American Spectator." - Los Angeles
Times Washington Bureau Chief Jack Nelson on PBS' Washington Week in
Review, December 24, 1993.
"Menacing undertones: The troopers are
silenced for now, but Clinton's political enemies may be just
regrouping. Arkansas attorney Cliff Jackson, who represents Perry and
Patterson, circulated an 'open letter' to the President last week
that, while couched as an apology for inflicting 'public pain,' had
menacing undertones. Referring to Clinton's 'casual willingness to
deceive,' Jackson warned darkly that the presidency is at stake if
Clinton doesn't change his 'fundamental nature.'" - Newsweek
reporter Eleanor Clift, January 10, 1994 story on Clinton reaction to
troopers' sex allegations.
"One of my losers of the year is David
Brock, who wrote that slimy magazine article that revived all those
charges about Bill Clinton's personal behavior, and I regarded that as
journalism which is truly out of bounds." - PBS Washington Week in
Review moderator Paul Duke, December 31, 1993.
Phase Six: Express Disappointment
"Those who identified with many of the
domestic, and some of the foreign, policies of the Clinton agenda made a
Faustian bargain. We overlooked Mr. Clinton's past indiscretions - he
was hardly the first politician with testosterone overload - on the
condition that he pursue his agenda and postpone his next dalliance until
after he left the White House. But he broke the bargain. I knew he was a
charming rogue with an appealing agenda, but I didn't think he was a
reckless idiot with an appealing agenda." - Former New York Times
reporter Thomas Friedman in a January 27 Times column.
Media Phase Seven:
Worry About Overcoverage
"We know from just answering the phone
around here that the amount of attention we are giving this story is, at
the very least, debatable. We in the news, as you can see [video of TV
broadcasts], are devoting major time and resources to these events, but
have we been carried away, are we doing too much and are we not being
fair?" - Peter Jennings on the Janaury 23 World News Tonight, two
days after the story broke.
"There is something about this story,
this presidency, that has led the media to almost obliterate the standards
of decency that were built up for so many years." - Washington Post
reporter Howard Kurtz on CNN's January 28 special Media Madness?
"The drumbeat of accusations in
Washington registers as a dull thud here....What these five baby boomers
judged Clinton on last night were his plans to rescue Social Security and
help education, presidential visions of the future rather than the
frenzied melodrama of the past." - NBC's Roger O'Neil on
reaction in Eagle, Colorado to the State of the Union address, January 28
Media Phase Eight:
Help Hillary's Agenda
"What is it about your husband, Mrs.
Clinton, that seems to make him a lightning rod for these types of
allegations?....You've also talked about your husband's generosity and
his warmth, and his, you know, his warmth with people even, you know,
people he hardly knows." - Good Morning America co-host Lisa McRee
to Hillary Clinton, January 28.
"It's difficult to ask another woman
about those questions, you know, it's a hard conversation to have to
have and I think she handled it, as she always does, with great skill. She
is a very good politician and she wanted to talk about the President's
agenda and she manages to do that and, you know, to her credit, talk about
things that really do matter in terms of the country and the world."
- McRee after the interview.
Media Phase Nine:
Discredit the Investigator
"Scott, as you and I both know, a
popular move these days is to make a titillating charge and then have the
media create the frenzy. Given Kenneth Starr's track record, should we
suspect that he's trying to do with innuendo that which he has been
unable to do with evidence?" - Bryant Gumbel to CBS News reporter
Scott Pelley, January 21 Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel.
"But Starr's single-mindedness in
pursuit of the Clintons has raised questions about his own propriety. A
lot of them are being put out there, of course, by the President's
die-hard defenders, notably by way of Hillary Clinton's charge that the
independent counsel is a tool of the right wing - talk that Starr calls,
simply, 'nonsense.' But you don't have to be a conspiracy buff to
have trouble with how the Whitewater investigation ended up focused on the
President's pants. Or to feel that, whatever turns out to be true about
Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, Starr's own methods are not always easy to
stomach. Going after the President's sex life, wiring Linda Tripp to
secretly tape Lewinsky, trying to persuade Lewinsky to tape Clinton -
are those the actions of a conscientious prosecutor or a political hit
man?" - Time magazine reporters Richard Lacayo and Adam Cohen in
the February 9 issue.
"President Clinton is doing a good job
and it's unfortunate that he'll be overshadowed by these events.
It's a shame for the country and him. Six hours into this thing the
allegations went away and it's like he'd done it. People are
describing what's on the tapes as if they'd heard them. I blame Ken
Starr." - Reid Collins Jr., Senior Producer for CBS News, in the
January 25 Daily Record of Morris County, New Jersey.
"In Washington, the pendulum swings
the other way. Confidence in the President now at an all-time high. The
question: Did prosecutor Kenneth Starr make a rush to judgment?" -
Tom Brokaw opening NBC Nightly News, January 30.
Media Phase Ten:
Indulge Hillary's Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy
"She [Hillary] is really convinced
that the right wing is incredibly well-organized, and there is kind of a
hate campaign going on in this country that is, is deeply and
well-organized, and it poses a real threat to government and the
Clinton's personally. And I mean, she may be right." -
Newsweek's Evan Thomas on Inside Washington, August 13, 1994.
"Where does Lewinsky fit into this
conspiracy theory? Is she victimizing the President or is she too a
victim?" - Bryant Gumbel to James Carville, January 28 Public Eye
"Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri, an
astringent and abstemious conservative, lambasted his fellow Republicans
for their 'sin by silence,' and others started talking as well. The
White House loves the exposure - for the other side: Starr,
televangelist Jerry Falwell, Internet gossip columnist Matt Drudge and
assorted Republicans, among them Jesse Helms, Newt Gingrich and Trent
Lott. To Clintonites, it seemed a usefully geeky crowd. 'They resemble a
crew out of The Addams Family,' one White House spin doctor said,
happily, 'with names by Charles Dickens.'" - Washington
reporter Howard Fineman in Newsweek, February 9.
"Hillary Clinton linked Starr to a
conspiracy that has even suggested the President was involved in the
murder of a former campaign worker....It is Starr's past and continuing
connections with very conservative organizations and causes that have
brought him into the cross hairs of the First Family. As their evidence
they point to his very appointment as independent counsel by a three judge
panel headed by Judge David Sentelle, who is a close ally of
ultraconservative North Carolina Senators Jesse Helms and Lauch
Faircloth...." - Correspondent Phil Jones on the CBS Evening News,
Enter Standby Mode:
Say It All Disproves Any Liberal Bias
"I think we can now safely conclude
that this whole notion that the liberal media elite is coddling Bill
Clinton and always plays to the Democrats is absurd. I mean the fact is
who's been the undoing of Bill Clinton: Newsweek and The Washington
Post, those raging conservative publications..." - Former New York
Times and U.S. News reporter Steve Roberts on CNN's Late Edition,
- L. Brent Bozell III,
Publisher; Brent H. Baker, Tim Graham; Editors
- Eric Darbe, Geoffrey
Dickens, Gene Eliasen, Denise Froning, Steve Kaminski,
Clay Waters, Media Analysts;
Rebecca Hinnershitz, Karen Sanjines, Interns
- Kristina Sewell,
Research Associate; Sherri Pascale, Circulation Manager
(To receive a hard copy of this special
issue, send $2.00 to:
Special NQ (Web site offer)
325 South Patrick St.
Alexandria, Va 22314
For multiple copy orders with a credit
card, or to subscribe for $19 annually, call Sherri Pascale at
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